On Jan. 8, the Japanese government announced that the number of days on which Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels approached Japanese fishing boats in Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands totaled 29 in 2021, about twice as many as in the previous year. The number of Japanese fishing boats approached by the CCG exceeded 40 in 2021, an approximately threefold increase from the previous year.
The government is increasingly vigilant about the CCG activities, especially in light of China’s Coast Guard Law, which came into effect in February 2021 to allow CCG ships to use weapons.
A government source disclosed that at a working-level meeting on maritime issues held between the two countries’ high-ranking officials on Dec. 20, China requested Japan to control movements of Japanese fishing boats, threatening that if Japan fails to do so, China will dispatch its own fishing boats to the area.
On the day of the meeting as well as on the day after, CCG ships intruded into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands and tried to approach fishing boats from Miyakojima. “It is absolutely Japanese fishermen’s right to fish in Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkakus,” the government source emphasized.
In 2021, the CCG vessels were spotted in the contiguous zone outside Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkakus a total of 332 days. This is the second largest number, after 333 days recorded in 2020, since the Japanese government nationalized the Senkakus in 2012.
Some analysts speculate that China reduced the total number in 2021 to avoid inviting anti-China feelings in Japan 2022, the year marking the 50th anniversary of the normalization of the Japan-China relationship. According to the Japan Coast Guard, the CCG vessels left the contiguous zone outside Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkakus on Dec. 25, stayed away through Dec. 27, and came back on Dec. 28. The Japan Coast Guard patrol confirmed that they were in the area every day until Dec. 31, making the annual total 332 days. (Slightly abridged)